The other day I read something that describes the mounting challenges that committed European Christians are facing as they endeavor to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. In my selfishness, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief for the blessing of living where I do. But then I got to thinking - how would my life and faith be different if I wasn't living in this place where Christianity is more enculturated and consequently "easier" or "cost-free"? Maybe another way of asking the question is this - "In the eternal scheme of things, is living as a Christian here a benefit or liability, a blessing or a curse?"
I think the answer lies in what I've gleaned from casual observation over the years. I've grown up and lived my entire life in what has been called a "Christian nation." I've spent time reading, listening to, and engaging with loads of fellow believers from places I've heard some describe as "pagan nations," - places like Canada, the UK, and other European countries. These are places where Christians live in the minority. As a result, there is a depth and seriousness to their faith that one rarely sees here where I live. There is a vitality and excellence that stands out.
What is it about them "over there" that sparks this difference from us "over here"? I think it's the challenge of suffering that comes with life in the wilderness. These are the things that drive us to our knees, that cause us to seek dependence on God, that shatter the idols we're inclined to worship, and that ultimately take us deep into the things that really matter.
I was reminded of these realities last night as I listened to Robin Mark, the songwriter and worship leader from Northern Ireland. It is out of suffering that he sings these amazing words in the opening lines of his song "All Is Well" - "He lowers us to raise us, So we can sing His praises. Whatever is His way, All is well."
If - and when - it all comes undone, will we embrace His way as a blessing or as a curse?